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Argos Therapeutics Lands Licensing Deal With Novo Nordisk

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DURHAM, NC — Argos Therapeutics

, a developer of immunotherapy technology for treatment of cancer, HIV and other diseases, has struck a licensing deal with drug giant Novo Nordisk that could be worth as much as $69 million.

The deal will provide cash to help fund core immunotherapy products, three of which are involved in clinical trials or soon will be, a spokesman for the company told WRAL Local Tech Wire.

Novo Nordisk will utilize technology from Argos, which changed its name from Merix Bioscience in 2004, for research and development of a treatment targeting systemic immune disorders, such as lupus.

Argos will receive up-front and milestone payments up to $69 million plus royalties on any drugs that might be developed.

"The critical part of this deal is that this involves technology we acquired through work we were doing around core our technology with an outside collaborator," said Jeff Abbey, vice president of business development for Argos. "This will provide money up front for our core programs. Novo Noridsk will take over development of this program from here forward."

Argos is developing individualized treatments for cancer and HIV that help a patient's immune system destroy the disease. Initial cancer targets are forms of kidney disease and leukemia.

Argos received a $1 million grant from the Alliance for Lupus Research in February. The technology licensed by Novo Nordisk had originally been developed by Baylor Institute of Immunology Research. A researcher had discovered a mouse antibody that should promise in fighting autoimmune diseases.

"Development of antibodies is a field into itself," Abbey said, noting that the antibody has to be "humanized". "The work we are focusing on is completely different. We don't have expertise in antibodies or humanization, so it didn't make sense for us to continue (the work).

"The core technology we have is focused on personalized therapies for cancer and HIV," he added. "That's plenty for us."

The new deal is among the largest for Argos, which was founded in 1997. Argos signed a $44 million up-front licensing deal with Geron Corporation in 2004 and a 50/50 co-development deal with the pharmaceutical division of Japan-based Kirin Brewery that same year, Abbey said.

Argos, which is privately held, has raised $53 million in venture capital. Among its investors are The Aurora Funds and Intersouth Partners.

Argos currently employs 75 people.

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